|Native to||Countries of the Arab League, minorities in neighboring countries and some parts of Asia, Africa, Europe|
|Ethnicity||Arabs, Arab-Berbers, Afro-Arabs, among others|
|310 million, all varieties (2011–2016)|
270 million L2 speakers of Standard (Modern) Arabic
|Signed Arabic (different national forms)|
Official language in
Dispersion of native Arabic speakers as the majority (dark green) or minority (light green) population
Use of Arabic as the national language (green), as an official language (dark blue) and as a regional/minority language (light blue)
Arabic (اَلْعَرَبِيَّةُ, al-ʿarabiyyah [al ʕaraˈbijːa] (listen) or عَرَبِيّ, ʿarabīy [ˈʕarabiː] (listen) or [ʕaraˈbij]) is a Semitic language that first emerged in the 1st to 4th centuries CE. It is now the lingua franca of the Arab world. It is named after the Arabs, a term initially used to describe peoples living in the Arabian Peninsula bounded by eastern Egypt in the west, Mesopotamia in the east, and the Anti-Lebanon mountains and Northern Syria in the north, as perceived by ancient Greek geographers The ISO assigns language codes to thirty varieties of Arabic, including its standard form, Modern Standard Arabic, also referred to as Literary Arabic, which is modernized Classical Arabic. This distinction exists primarily among Western linguists; Arabic speakers themselves generally do not distinguish between Modern Standard Arabic and Classical Arabic, but rather refer to both as al-ʿarabiyyatu l-fuṣḥā (اَلعَرَبِيَّةُ ٱلْفُصْحَىٰ "the eloquent Arabic") or simply al-fuṣḥā (اَلْفُصْحَىٰ). Modern Standard Arabic is an official language of 26 states and 1 disputed territory, the third most after English and French.
Arabic is widely taught in schools and universities and is used to varying degrees in workplaces, government and the media. Arabic, in its standard form, is the official language of 26 states, as well as the liturgical language of the religion of Islam, since the Quran and Hadith were written in Arabic.
During the Middle Ages, Arabic was a major vehicle of culture in Europe, especially in science, mathematics and philosophy. As a result, many European languages have also borrowed many words from it. Arabic influence, mainly in vocabulary, is seen in European languages—mainly Spanish and to a lesser extent Portuguese, Catalan, and Sicilian—owing to both the proximity of Christian European and Muslim Arab civilizations and the long-lasting Arabic culture and language presence mainly in Southern Iberia during the Al-Andalus era. The Maltese language is a Semitic language developed from a dialect of Arabic and written in the Latin alphabet. The Balkan languages, including Greek and Bulgarian, have also acquired a significant number of Arabic words through contact with Ottoman Turkish.
Arabic has influenced many other languages around the globe throughout its history. Some of the most influenced languages are Persian, Turkish, Hindustani (Hindi and Urdu), Kashmiri, Kurdish, Bosnian, Kazakh, Bengali, Malay (Indonesian and Malaysian), Maldivian, Pashto, Punjabi, Albanian, Armenian, Azerbaijani, Sicilian, Spanish, Greek, Bulgarian, Tagalog, Sindhi, Odia and Hausa and some languages in parts of Africa. Conversely, Arabic has borrowed words from other languages, including Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic, and Persian in medieval times and languages such as English and French in modern times.
Arabic is the liturgical language of 1.8 billion Muslims, and Arabic is one of six official languages of the United Nations. All varieties of Arabic combined are spoken by perhaps as many as 422 million speakers (native and non-native) in the Arab world, making it the fifth most spoken language in the world. Arabic is written with the Arabic alphabet, which is an abjad script and is written from right to left, although the spoken varieties are sometimes written in ASCII Latin from left to right with no standardized orthography.
Arabic is usually, but not universally, classified as a Central Semitic language. It is related to languages in other subgroups of the Semitic language group (Northwest Semitic, South Semitic, East Semitic, West Semitic), such as Aramaic, Syriac, Hebrew, Ugaritic, Phoenician, Canaanite, Amorite, Ammonite, Eblaite, epigraphic Ancient North Arabian, epigraphic Ancient South Arabian, Ethiopic, Modern South Arabian, and numerous other dead and modern languages. Linguists still differ as to the best classification of Semitic language sub-groups.The Semitic languages changed a great deal between Proto-Semitic and the emergence of the Central Semitic languages, particularly in grammar. Innovations of the Central Semitic languages—all maintained in Arabic—include:
- The conversion of the suffix-conjugated stative formation (jalas-) into a past tense.
- The conversion of the prefix-conjugated preterite-tense formation (yajlis-) into a present tense.
- The elimination of other prefix-conjugated mood/aspect forms (e.g., a present tense formed by doubling the middle root, a perfect formed by infixing a /t/ after the first root consonant, probably a jussive formed by a stress shift) in favor of new moods formed by endings attached to the prefix-conjugation forms (e.g., -u for indicative, -a for subjunctive, no ending for jussive, -an or -anna for energetic).
- The development of an internal passive.
There are several features which Classical Arabic, the modern Arabic varieties, as well as the Safaitic and Hismaic inscriptions share which are unattested in any other Central Semitic language variety, including the Dadanitic and Taymanitic languages of the northern Hejaz. These features are evidence of common descent from a hypothetical ancestor, Proto-Arabic. The following features can be reconstructed with confidence for Proto-Arabic:
- negative particles m * /mā/; lʾn */lā-ʾan/ to Classical Arabic lan
- mafʿūl G-passive participle
- prepositions and adverbs f, ʿn, ʿnd, ḥt, ʿkdy
- a subjunctive in -a
- leveling of the -at allomorph of the feminine ending
- ʾn complementizer and subordinator
- the use of f- to introduce modal clauses
- independent object pronoun in (ʾ)y
- vestiges of nunation